Park West Gallery Founder Interviewed on Art Basel Banana Controversy
Can a banana duct-taped to a wall really be considered fine art?
That was the topic of discussion when Albert Scaglione, the founder and CEO of Park West Gallery, appeared on the popular iHeartRadio program “Michigan’s Big Show” this week.
Scaglione was brought in to give his opinion on one of the biggest news stories in the art world—controversial artist Maurizio Cattelan made a stir over the weekend for selling bananas taped to a blank wall for over $120,000.
You can listen to the full interview here:
Cattelan debuted his new artwork “The Comedian” at the annual Art Basel Miami, an annual art showcase that brings together “leading galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa show significant work from the masters of Modern and contemporary art, as well as the new generation of emerging stars.”
Cattelan has a long reputation for his shocking and provocative art installations. He attracted international attention in 1999 for his statue “La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour),” which showed Pope John Paul II being hit by a meteor. He made headlines again in 2016 for installing a functional 18-karat gold toilet in the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
“The Comedian” consisted of just a banana—purchased at a local Miami grocery store—that was duct-taped to a white wall. Cattelan produced three “editions” of “The Comedian,” all of which sold for more than $120,000 and garnered intense media attention.
According to Cattelan’s dealer Emmanuel Perrotin, “Whether affixed to the wall of an art fair booth or displayed on the cover of the New York Post, [Cattelan’s] work forces us to question how value is placed on material goods. … The spectacle is as much a part of the work as the banana.”
During his appearance, Scaglione gave “Michigan Big Show” host Michael Patrick Shiels a quick history of Art Basel Miami, noting “there were more private planes in Miami this weekend than when they hosted the Super Bowl.”
Scaglione argued that it’s the concept behind “The Comedian” and the brand name of its artist—more than the sum parts of a banana and some tape—that gave the artwork such cache. “That’s the craziness of the world of modern art today,” Scaglione said.
He added, “I get a kick out of [Cattelan’s] dealer’s recent comment that, years ago, he had to fight collector by collector to make them buy [Cattelan’s art]… That’s the exact opposite of my business model. At Park West Gallery, we’ve helped almost three million people buy art. Our people love art, they pick from our selection, and they decide what’s right, what they like, and what’s not right for them. I think it’s one of the first times in the art world where the public has been made the boss.”
Scaglione then shared the ironic end to “The Comedian” display at Art Basel—another performance artist from New York took the banana off the wall and ate it.
(No charges were filed and Cattelan’s dealers immediately replaced the banana.)